Storm clouds approach a church in Mequon, Wis., on Aug. 2, 2020. A new Pew Research Center report published Thursday explores how religion in the U.S. intersects with views on the environment and climate change.

Poll: Religious Americans less concerned about climate change

Storm clouds approach a church in Mequon, Wisconsin, August 2, 2020. A new report from the Pew Research Center released Thursday explores how religion in the United States intersects with views on the environment and climate change. (Morry Gash, Associated Press)

Estimated reading time: 5-6 minutes

NEW YORK — Most adults in the United States — including a large majority of Christians and people who identify with other faiths — regard the Earth as sacred and believe that God has given humans the duty to to take care.

But highly religious Americans — those who pray daily, attend church services regularly, and consider religion central to their lives — are far less likely than other American adults to express concern about global warming.

Those are among the key findings of a comprehensive report released Thursday by the Pew Research Center, which surveyed 10,156 American adults from April 11 to April 17. Its margin of error for the full sample of respondents is plus or minus 1.6 percentage points.

The survey indicates that religious Americans tend to be less concerned about climate change for several reasons.

“First and foremost, politics: The main driver of American public opinion on climate is political party, not religion,” the report said.

“Highly religious Americans are more likely than others to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, and Republicans tend to be significantly less likely than Democrats to believe that human activity (such as burning combustibles fossils) is warming the Earth or considering climate change as a serious problem.”

The community and the planet

Responding to the findings, the Reverend Richenda Fairhurst, climate steward of the nonprofit Circle Faith Future, said America’s siled culture is more divisive than inspiring teamwork.

“I don’t know who this is for,” she said. “But it doesn’t serve the community – and it certainly doesn’t serve the planet.”

The poll found that about three-quarters (74%) of religious Americans say the Earth is sacred. A larger share (80%) feel a sense of stewardship – and fully or mostly agree that “God has given humans the duty to protect and care for the Earth, including plants. and animals”.

American clerics who care little or nothing about climate change also say “there are much bigger issues in the world, that God controls the climate, and they don’t believe the climate is actually changing.”

Many religious Americans also worry about the potential consequences of environmental regulations, including the loss of personal freedoms, fewer jobs or higher energy prices, the report said.

The survey also found that two-thirds of American adults who are affiliated with a religion say the scriptures of their faith include lessons about the environment, and about four in ten say they have prayed for the environment in the past. course of the past year.

Split views

The views, the report says, are common to a range of religious traditions.

Three-quarters of evangelical Protestants and members of historically black Protestant churches say the Bible contains lessons about the environment. According to the poll, eight in ten US Catholics and mainstream Protestants say the Earth is sacred, as do 77% of non-Christian religions.

But Christians, and more broadly religious Americans, are divided in their views on climate change, the report says.

Those who see climate change as “an extremely or very serious problem” range from 68% of adults who identify with the historically black Protestant tradition, to 34% of evangelical Protestants.

In none of the major Protestant traditions has the majority said that the Earth is warming primarily because of human activity; only 32% of evangelicals felt this.

The report indicates that people unaffiliated with religion – the fastest growing group in surveys asking Americans about their religious identity – are much more likely to say that climate change is an extreme or very serious problem ( 70%) than Americans affiliated with religion (52%).

Commonly called the “nones”, they describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular”. The report says they are much more likely to say the Earth is warming primarily because of human-induced activity (66%) than those who are affiliated with a religion (47%).

Climate change in sermons

The survey offers clues as to why religious Americans are less likely to care about climate change than non-religious Americans, despite the connection between their beliefs and environmental protection:

  • For American congregations, climate change does not seem to be a major concern. The report says that of all American adults who attend church services at least once or twice a month, only 8% say they “hear a lot or a little about climate change in sermons.”
  • One in five say they heard a discussion on the subject from the pulpit.
  • And only 6% of American congregants say they talk a lot or enough about climate change with others in their congregation.

Highly religious Americans are also less likely to view inefficient energy practices as morally wrong, the report found. This same pattern is also seen when asked about the consumption of foods that require a lot of energy to produce.

Reverend Fletcher Harper, an Episcopal priest and executive director of GreenFaith, a New York-based global multifaith environmental organization, said he was not surprised by the results because he does not see culturally and politically conservative Americans prioritizing to climate action. .

“What this study doesn’t tell us, however, is the role that religion, when used effectively, can play in bringing concerned but inactive people to public climate action,” said Harper. “This warrants further research so that we can all better understand the positive role religion can play in addressing climate change.”

Associated Press religious coverage receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment. The AP is solely responsible for this content.


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